The Ron Paul alternative

Ron Paul, the pro-life anti-war libertarian, took second place in the Iowa straw poll.   Michelle Bachmann beat him by only 200 votes, and yet her showing is being hailed as making her a contender.   Paul is attracting much more support than he received the last time he ran for president, which was considerable.

So why does the media continue to ignore him?   Why does the punditocracy refuse to treat him as a legitimate contender?   Isn’t that a case of the media actively shaping and controlling an election, rather than covering the voters’ genuine political options objectively?

Jon Stewart: Why Is the Media Ignoring Ron Paul?.


The Middle-Earth election guide

The Wall Street Journal and John McCain started it by calling Tea Partiers “hobbits.”  Timothy Furnish develops the parallels:

The first leg on this journey is figuring out what the Ring represents in modern political discourse. Since the Tea Party is trying to cast it into the fire, it must be American government spending and debt (which includes deficits, of course). That would make Congressman Paul Ryan Frodo since he knows more about that burden than anyone; and thus Samwise Gamgee must be John Boehner because he helps Frodo and he cries a lot.

Merry and Pippin, the other two major hobbits, would thus have to be Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor — although the thought of McConnell’s mug on a 1-meter tall hobbit frame is a nightmare on the order of Tolkien’s visions of massive tidal waves and giant spiders.

Who advises the hobbits — as well as the other characters in this conservative’s Middle-Earth? Mainly Limbaugh the Grey, sent by the Valar to contest the will of the Dark Lord by inspiring all Men and Elves via three hours of daily radio programming and special advisory scrolls known as newsletters.

He’s assisted in this role by our world’s Elrond — Charles Krauthammer.

Both urge resistance to the Dark Lord….wait for it…George Soros. (Sorry, making Obama the “Dark Lord” would not only send a thrill up Chris Mathews’ “racism” antenna, it would give BHO far too much credit.) “Soron” hopes to seize the Ring of Debt for himself in order to transform the Middle-west and the rest of America into Mordor with a view — also known as Greece. Soron is, however, a bit distracted at present with this $50 million lawsuit brought by a Witch Queen.

Obama, then, is relegated to the role of Saruman — trying to be in charge, hoping to seize the Ring for himself, but really only doing the Dark Lord’s bidding: undermining capitalism, hosting Haradrim religious dinners at the White House, and playing golf on Sunday mornings.

via PJ Lifestyle » The Middle-Earth Guide to Campaign 2012—Updated.

Soros, Sauron, “Soron”!  That’s perfect.  See the rest of the post, in which Furnish gives roles to Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, and on and on,  to the last dwarf.

Do you have any additions or corrections?  Those of you on the liberal side of things, can you construct something similar from the Democratic point of view?

Another consideration in a presidential candidate

In choosing which presidential candidate a person will support, the most usual preoccupation for people in both parties is “what does he–or she–believe”? That’s certainly important, since a leader’s beliefs will manifest themselves in their policies and decisions.  But there is something else to consider:  How well can this person govern?

Having an ideology and having the ability to preside over a government are two different dimensions that are not necessarily related to each other.  To run something–as a manager, an administrator, a CEO, a president–takes leadership; that is, the ability to get people to do what you want them to do.  This, in turn, takes people skills such as diplomacy, the ability to persuade, effective communication, the capacity to inspire.

A candidate with the right ideas, solid all the way down the line, who lacks these abilities will not make an effective president.  For one thing, ideology has little to do with much of what a president has to do.  And to the extent that the ideology is important, any good ideas that the president might have will never be implemented without good administrative qualities.

Again, I am by no means minimizing the importance of political ideology and personal convictions.  I’m just saying that those are not enough to make an effective president.  Reagan could govern; Bush II, for all of his good beliefs and personal qualities, not so much.  Clinton could govern, even with a divided Congress; Carter, with similar ideals, could not.  Obama’s main problem is not his ideology, as misguided as that may be, but his lack of leadership and administrative ability.

I’d like to know how a candidate works with staff.  His or her record of getting pet projects from ideas to realities.  Can this person twist arms, create consensus, win over critics?  Can this candidate work behind the scenes, break through people’s apathy, get things done?

I wish the media and political pundits of either party would report on that sort of thing.

Who do you think would be the best candidates with these criteria?

What makes a gaffe?

Mitt Romney said, “Corporations are people.”  Newt Gingrich castigated “right-wing social engineering.”  Michele Bachmann claimed that she shared the same spirit as someone else born in Waterloo, Iowa, John Wayne.  But it wasn’t the movie star with whom she shared a birthplace but serial killer John Wayne Gacy.

These politically-damaging statements were heralded as “gaffes.”  But what makes a gaffe, as opposed to a forgivable misstatement or an inconsequential mistake?  Journalist Paul Waldman, a liberal, by the way, explains:

What makes an incident or gaffe “major” is the interpretation that journalists — and these days, the blogosphere and Twitterverse as well — give it. Some mistakes are largely ignored, while others are portrayed as enormously consequential and haunt the candidate for weeks or months. The difference reveals far more about journalistic biases than it does about the candidates themselves. . . .

All of these misstatements had something in common: They reinforced what many people — including reporters — already thought about the candidate in question. That’s why the incidents became “news.”

In Gingrich’s case, reporters have long believed him to be undisciplined and erratic. Romney is supposed to be not only a creature of big business but inauthentic as well, awkwardly trying to ingratiate himself with voters. (Sometimes derided as “Romneybot,” he’d be the one to see no difference between corporations and human beings.) Pawlenty is thought by some to be unprepared for the hardball of a presidential campaign, while Bachmann is considered an intellectual or policy lightweight — a “flake,” as Chris Wallace so ungraciously saidto her on “Fox News Sunday.”The politicians’ so-called gaffes don’t tell us anything new. Instead, they allow reporters to explain how what they’ve thought all along about a candidate is true. . . .

John McCain was a grumpy old man, George W. Bush was dumb, John Kerry was a stiff patrician, Al Gore was dishonest and self-aggrandizing. Every politician is defined by what is allegedly his or her biggest character flaw.

If the candidate’s misstep doesn’t hew to the stereotype, chances are it’ll be soon forgotten. During a 2008 stop in Oregon, then-Sen. Barack Obama noted that he had visited “57 states” during his presidential campaign. Despite the efforts of some GOP partisans, the mainstream media quickly moved on; most journalists assumed Obama knew the right number and had simply misspoken. Today, if Bachmann says something that sounds like an awkward attempt to ingratiate herself with voters, reporters won’t speed-dial their editors. If Romney makes a factual error about the founding fathers, it will be greeted with a yawn. He’s supposed to be the insincere one without a handle on human interaction, and she’s supposed to be the dolt.

The result is profoundly unequal treatment of candidates. Get branded as dishonest, and reporters will pore over your statements to see if you’ve ever strayed from the truth; if they find that you have, they’ll assume it was an intentional deception and not a mistake. (Just ask Gore, who never actually claimed that he invented the Internet.) Get a reputation as a fool, and the same error will be presented as yet more evidence that you lack the intellect for whatever job you’re seeking.

There’s nothing partisan about it. Think about the 2008 election. When McCain was unable to recall how many houses he owned, the stories about it were as good a mark as any that the character judgment reporters were making about him had shifted. No longer the much-admired “maverick,” McCain had become just another rich, out-of-touch Republican. But his opponent got off no easier: When Obama was secretly recorded saying that white working-class voters in the Rust Belt, in the face of their economic struggles, “cling to guns or religion,” it allowed reporters to place him in the stereotype of Democrats as cultural elitists. Both episodes became major stories.

These gaffes rarely concern substantive policy issues — in fact, the less they are about policy, the more likely they are to stick. Mischaracterize your opponent’s tax plan and observers will barely bat an eye, but pad your résumé, and your fundamental character will be questioned.

And of course, “character” is the primary theme of all campaign coverage — not what candidates will do once they take office, but who they are deep within. The gaffe is supposed to reveal this inner character, to strip away the carefully crafted veneer and show the real person. And sometimes it can.

via How candidates’ gaffes confirm reporters’ biases – The Washington Post.

Can you think of other gaffes?  Does this analysis apply?  What gaffes will the media be looking for from Rick Perry?  Ron Paul?  Barack Obama?

Where’s the methane?

One of the major greenhouse global warming gases is methane.  Scientists have discovered that there is not nearly as much methane in the atmosphere as their computer models predicted there should be. 

Scientists say that there has been a mysterious decline in the growth of methane in the atmosphere in the last decades of the 20th Century.

Researchers writing in the journal Nature have come up with two widely differing theories as to the cause.

One suggests the decline was caused by greater commercial use of natural gas, the other that increased use in Asia of artificial fertiliser was responsible.

Both studies agree that human activities are the key element.

And there are suggestions that methane levels are now on the rise again.

Methane is regarded as one of the most potent greenhouse gases, trapping over 20 times more atmospheric heat than carbon dioxide.

Since the start of the industrial revolution, levels of methane in the atmosphere have more than doubled from a wide variety of sources, including energy production, the burning of forests, and increased numbers of cattle and sheep.

But between 1980 and the turn of the millennium, the growth rate reduced substantially, leaving scientists puzzled as to the cause.

Now, two teams of researchers have arrived at two very different conclusions for the decline. The first study was led by Dr Murat Aydin from the University of California, Irvine.

“We went after ethane – it’s another hydrocarbon similar to methane, it has common sources, but is easier to trace. We determined what ethane did during the second half of the 20th century using ancient air that we collected at polar ice sheets.

“We think the trend we see in methane is best explained by dramatic changes in emissions linked to fossil fuel production and use which seem to have declined in the 1980s and 1990s.

via BBC News – New theories over methane puzzle.

The big question, then, is what this does to the global warming scare.

Rest & restlessness

Well, we are back from our Alaskan cruise.  What a great vacation.  A cruise ship offers rest and relaxation, the beauties and sublimities of nature, the benefits of civilization, learning interesting things, fine food and drink, entertainment (shows, live music, movies), time to read for sheer pleasure, quality and quantity time with whomever you are traveling with (in my case, my wonderful wife of 40 years).   You can make a vacation of any one of those, but a leisurely cruise gives you all of them.  We had a week of utter enjoyment.  So why, after a week, was I so ready for it to end?

One might say that I need to be productive and all that.  But I really believe this is a fault.  St. Augustine said that our hearts are restless until they find rest in God.   Restlessness is surely a function of the Fall.  In Heaven we will rest from our labors.  We will enjoy a permanent vacation, with pleasures forevermore.  We cannot even conceive of what that kind of existence would be like. And the foretastes we might have of that on earth–such as a vacation–can be hard for us to handle for very long.

What strange beings we are!